By MIKE SMITH
On Feb. 26, the Rye girls’ basketball season came to an end at the County Center when the Garnets fell to a tough Albertus Magnus team 48-37 in the Class A semifinals.
Despite the loss, and the graduation of several key seniors, head coach Dennis Hurlie believes that the Garnets are poised for success in the years to come.
Magnus came out of the gates hot, building a 18-8 lead over the Garnets in the early minutes of Wednesday’s game, despite Rye’s reputation as one of the best defenses in the section.
“I think if there was some anxiety on our part, it showed on the defensive end,” Hurlie said. “We were chasing and scrambling, and that’s not something we do often.”
The Garnets were able to find their footing as the game wore on and climbed back into contention in the third quarter when a Rachel Egan three-pointer made the score 31-29.
“The big thing we did was start to defend better,” Hurlie said. “We gave up 25 points in the first half, and going into the fourth, we’d only given up 34. Once you get a couple of stops, you get some momentum going.”
That momentum wouldn’t be enough though as Rye couldn’t overcome a hot shooting day from Magnus guard Madison McGrath, who finished with 26 points.
Hurlie said even when the Garnets were down by 14 early on, he was never worried his squad would give up. In good showings against Pelham and Mamaroneck this year, the Garnets have always found a way to hang around, according to the coach.
“I was actually pretty calm, if you can believe it,” he said after the game. “I knew once we settled in, our defense would keep us in the game, and that’s what happened. But going down 22-8, there probably wasn’t a person in the building that didn’t think we were going to get our doors blown off.”
The Garnets will be hit hard by graduation as they will lose stars like Alanna Morque, Hannah Billingsley and All-Section honoree Rachel Egan, but Hurlie is confident his team won’t suffer a precipitous drop in production.
“This is Rye,” Hurlie said. “I don’t expect to suffer from a lack of talent.”
The only question, he said, is whether next year’s group will have the same commitment on the defensive end that brought his team to the County Center this winter.
“We bring back [All-Section player] Maddie Eck, who was our best defender,” Hurlie said. “And defense is something the girls started to hang their hat on this year. I think the girls in the program know that if they’re not going to put that effort in on the defensive end of the floor, they’re not going to be out there.”